NYS partnership liaison facilitates community-Cornell collaborations

Dhyana Gonzalez, second from left, adds to a CCE internship presentation by Engaged Ambassador Chenab Khakh ’20, far right, during Trustee Council Annual Meeting.

A new position in the Office of Engagement Initiatives (OEI) is supporting units across the university and community partners to increase access to statewide community-engaged learning and research experiences.

Based in Ithaca, Dhyana Gonzalez is OEI’s New York partnership liaison, and can be a first point of contact for faculty, staff and community organizations interested in building new or advancing existing university-community collaborations.

“Cornell has a deep history of public engagement and many models of strong, reciprocal partnerships throughout New York,” said Gonzalez. “I’m excited to be working with and learning from these long-established programs and also facilitate opportunities for new or enhanced collaborations across all Cornell’s colleges.”

Gonzalez helps faculty, staff and community partners overcome common obstacles to community engagement by connecting potential collaborators who share common interests. She also supports the often complex logistics of off-campus projects.

“Faculty frequently cite the time and effort needed for logistical and business support as a major impediment to launching or sustaining community-engaged programs,” said Basil Safi, executive director of OEI. “We have learned from that and are thrilled to have an OEI staff resource to help with the various operational and networking dimensions that facilitate New York-based collaborations.”

Since joining OEI in February, Gonzalez has traveled to meet with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) county associations and other community partners; helped link faculty, staff and students to state-level engagement opportunities; and supported the development of resources to expand student housing options for off-campus community-engaged learning experiences.

“Since the launch of Engaged Cornell, OEI has been very helpful in connecting Ontario County partners to numerous faculty and students who’ve provided expertise across issues ranging from solid-waste management to invasive species,” said Tim Davis, executive director of CCE Ontario County. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with Dhyana to continue these partnerships and facilitate connections to new corners of Cornell.”

Gonzalez’s work complements a variety of OEI programs and funding opportunities dedicated to building capacity, networking and removing barriers to high-quality community-engaged programs. While Engaged Cornell includes community engagement around the globe, the initiative plays an important role in strengthening New York-based student learning opportunities. Since Engaged Cornell launched in 2015, programs have helped support collaborative work with more than 130 New York partners, including 17 Cornell Cooperative Extension county associations and 60 Tompkins County nonprofits, businesses and community organizations.

Ashlee McGandy is content strategist in the Office of Engagement Initiatives.

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Lindsey Knewstub